By Walter Rybeck
Member, Performing Arts Council
Simple Gifts, a program of folk music coming to Encore Theater at 7:30 p.m. on September 21, has been praised by critics as: “fun…brilliant…extraordinary… …energetic…sheer pleasure by marvelous musicians.”
The two performers, Linda Littleton and Karen Hirshon, are based in the hills of central Pennsylvania. They sing Irish, Appalachian, Klezmer, Scottish songs, and more, while switching with ease from many instruments—fiddle, mandolin, banjo, recorder, psaltery, dulcimer and guitar.
Linda (left in photo), founder of Simple Gifts, began classical violin lessons at age seven, studying with many mentors. At Princeton University, she majored in philosophy, with a minor in her specialty, the philosophy of music. She continued her classical playing as principal second violin in the Nittany Valley Symphony.
Karen, raised in a family that emphasized church music, grew up singing and harmonizing hymns. At age 10, she began violin lessons. Later, fascinated by blues and folk, she took up the guitar. At Grinnell College Karen combined history and anthropology to focus on traditional music in American culture — ragtime, African drumming, blues, gospel, and jazz. She toured nationally with the bluegrass band Whetstone Run and helped found the American old-time group, the Rustical Quality String Band. Simple Gifts has been featured at the Smithsonian, the National Theater, the Philadelphia Folk Festival, the Ontario Performing Arts Center, and many colleges and universities.
The $5 tickets go on sale Monday and Tuesday, September 17 and 18, from 4:30 to 6:00 p.m. at all dining lobbies. Doors to the concert open at 7:00 p.m.